Landlord Harry Satdeo has informed former highrise tenants of six conditions they must meet for their security deposit and half a month’s rent to be returned.
The tenants were displaced by a fire on the 11th floor of Hay River’s highrise on March 15.
But Satdeo’s requests aren’t coming from the Residential Tenancies Act, says Caroline Wawzonek of Yellowknife law firm Dragon Toner.
In a May 2 Facebook post, Malay Das – who is understood to be an employee of Satdeo – shared a letter requesting tenants produce a security deposit receipt, rent receipts for the past 12 months, and all of their apartment keys.
The letter also stated apartments will be inspected for reasonable cleanliness, that the TV and receiver must be returned, and all furniture, appliances, and furnishings must be in place.
“After due administrative process the cheque will be issued after four days, and the final discharge document will be signed both by the tenant and the landlord,” reads the notice, which is signed “by order of Harry Satdeo.”
This is believed to be the second time Satdeo has made direct contact with tenants since the fire. On the first occasion, he took out an ad in the Hay River Hub newspaper requesting tenants “square up on their dues” regarding outstanding rent.
Wawzonek said it is ordinarily the landlord's responsibility to provide receipts for rent and security deposits.
Section 36.1 [of the Residential Tenancies Act] says a landlord shall provide to a tenant or former tenant, on request and free of charge, a receipt for the payment of any rent, security deposit, pet security deposit, or other amount.
A screenshot of the May 2 notice posted on Facebook.
“I don't know that there's anything that suggests there's an obligation to return their receipts in order to have deposits returned to you,” said Wawzonek – who cautioned that, as she has not seen the individual tenancy agreements for apartments in the highrise, she cannot say for certain what highrise tenants might have agreed to within their contracts.
“It does sound like it could be a chicken and egg problem,” she said, in that Satdeo is requesting tenants provide him with receipts but by law the tenants can request Satdeo provide them with receipts.
It is not clear how many tenants will have 12 months' rent receipts to hand. At least one told Cabin Radio they did not recall ever receiving such receipts from the landlord.
As access to the highrise is limited and there may be water, smoke, and fire damage to some apartments, it is unclear how apartment inspections will be handled.
“I would hope that's something where the parties are reasonable in terms of dealing with that, given the rather emergency and unusual situation,” said Wawzonek.
Satdeo has not responded to requests for comment.
Tenants have previously been given two short windows to recover their belongings.
“There's an obligation on the landlord to do both an entry inspection and an exit inspection,” said Wawzonek.
“A landlord is supposed to ensure that the tenant has a reasonable opportunity to participate. And it's in the interest of the tenant to participate and to see what is being observed or marked down.”
If the landlord plans to hold on to a security deposit, they must prove why they made that decision.
Wawzonek encouraged tenants to call the NWT’s rental office if they have questions about their rights.